Showing She Can Stand the Heat
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived at the Iowa state fair in a motorcade, flanked by Secret Service agents, a half dozen assistants and a former governor. Her aides unfurled a yellow rope to keep back the crowds.
She was not, in short, the average visitor standing in line for pork-on-a-stick.
But Clinton did plunge into the event in full, making it one of her most hands-on appearances as a presidential candidate. And it was a mandatory performance for Clinton -- one of two New York city slickers slated to show on Wednesday -- who is the national frontrunner but is essentially tied for third place in Iowa, where the first primary voting will take place little more than four months from now.
So Clinton flipped pork patties. She gawked at a life-sized cow replica made of butter ("Oh my gosh," she said, looking through the glass encasement at the dairy wonder). She stopped at a food stand and ordered an ice-cream on a stick dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts. "You're officially at the state fair; you've got something on a stick," a man behind her in line said. Not all were so pleased to see Clinton, whose husband never campaigned in Iowa and who remains divisive as a political figure in her own right.
Christy Vilsack, the wife of the former Iowa governor and part of the Clinton entourage, spent much of the more than two-hour tour introducing the candidate to familiar voters. But when Vilsack tried to coax 87-year-old Roberta Hindman to come meet Clinton, the elderly woman snapped: "No way. She makes me sick." Another passerby loudly referred to Clinton as "the anti-Christ," and a third man argued with former Governor Tom Vilsack about whether she would become president, telling him, "I can't stand her."
But women by and large flocked to see Clinton, who was mobbed for the entire visit. There were even some moments of near spontaneity, by Clinton's standards. While she was turning pork over a sweltering grill, she joked about being able to handle the heat. Her assistant, Huma Abedin, snapped up a "special double ringer mop" at a hardware stand (special price: $20). Clinton marveled at an apple-slicing machine that then produced her a candied apple dish. At the Iowa pork producers stand, she donned a specially made apron with her name and "the other white meat" emblazoned on it. Her top Iowa strategist, veteran political operative Teresa Vilmain, practically glowed as she ate a hamburger, then a pork chop, watching her candidate become the fair's main attraction.
Jeanne Rutz, an 80-year-old caucusgoer, said she was proud to stand in the sweltering heat to meet the woman who would become the first female president. "Is there anyone else?" Rutz, who remembers her parents voting for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, said.
And Vilsack, who decided not to run for president himself, said he is seeing signs of improvement in the state, where she launched a television advertising buy last week. "People see her working for it," Vilsack said. "Her message is resonating with people." Clinton, asked whether the Iowa fair is better than the New York fair as she breezed from one stand to the next, just smiled.
--Anne E. Kornblut
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